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Ochre is common to archaeological sites around the world and often considered a culturally significant material. It was and continues to be used in a variety of contexts, as pigment for rock art and body paint, medicinally, and as a component of ritual and mortuary practices. However, the nature of its acquisition is poorly understood. This geochemical study uses instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) to examine the acquisition and distribution of ochre at and among multiple village sites on the central coast of British Columbia. INAA has shown to be a powerful tool capable of distinguishing different geochemical groups of ochre. Furthermore, the distribution over time and space of these geochemical groups indicates a mode of long-term, highly localized ochre procurement, and the potential for small-scale exchange and shared access to ochre sources. Ochre specimens from Katit (EkSt-1), have geochemically distinct signatures suggesting that the inhabitants of this village primarily accessed one source and did not engage in exchange of ochre with other villages in the region. Ochre specimens from Namu (ElSx-1) and Cockmi (EjSw-1) are from two geochemically distinct sources, which were either accessed by people from both villages, or occur at both sites as a result of small-scale exchange. These patterns of ochre-related behavior are consistent over long periods at each site. In addition to these, a small number of specimens from surrounding camp sites were analyzed to assess the geographical extent of the distribution of ochre sources in the region. These results enable a characterization of the nature and form of ochre procurement and distribution practices, and furthermore, how and what the analysis of ochre can reveal about broader notions of perception of landscape and resource use.

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